The International Community for Local Smart Grids research initiative is aimed to champion the relationship between communities and smart grids.
The collaboration convened by the University of Oxford and Enel Foundation as its research partner intends to document and share the learnings from local community energy projects around the world as a basis for future projects.
By working together to find real world, collaborative solutions that address the specific needs of different communities across the globe, the hope is to unlock the mass participation that is required to galvanise a successful transition, according to a statement.
“From Oxford to Waikato and from Sydney to Tokyo, the climates and regulatory structures within which electricity distribution networks and communities operate may be very different, but all our partners are tackling the same problems of how to innovate and cooperate as the world turns to zero carbon technologies,” says Professor Malcolm McCulloch, head of the Energy and Power Group in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, who is heading the initiative.
“Our research will draw in learnings from partners’ smart grid and community trials and will identify and develop the tools needed to deliver a just transition to net zero.”
Founding participants in the community smart grid collaboration, which was launched at COP26 and will last over five years, include the network operators Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks from GB, Ausgrid from Australia, TEPCO Power Grid from Japan and WEL Networks from New Zealand as well as the community enterprises Oxford-based Low Carbon Hub and Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia.
The statement notes that community energy organisations are rooted in their communities’ priorities for net zero and are working to ensure their solutions work socially, environmentally and financially. They provide a vital bridge to foster understanding of the opportunities and challenges that a transition to a zero-carbon energy system raises.
The partnership has recently appointed engineer Dr Katherine Collett as senior researcher. Her doctorate was focussed on improving the efficiency of silicon PV, while subsequent expertise covers vehicle-to-grid, forecasting electric vehicle uptake, readiness for grid edge technologies and decarbonising public transport in Sub-Saharan Africa.